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Run Wang and Hong-Li Ren

Abstract

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events exhibit a diversity of amplitudes, spatial patterns, and life cycles, with the main ENSO periods concentrated in the 3–7-yr [low-frequency (LF)] and 2–3-yr [quasi-biennial (QB)] bands. In this study, the spatiotemporal diversity of ENSO is quantitatively examined by extracting the two ENSO modes, namely, the LF and QB components of ENSO, from the traditional Niño-3.4 index and connecting them with the spatial types of ENSO. El Niño events can be regrouped as the QB-dominated central-Pacific ENSO-like (QB-CP), LF-dominated eastern-Pacific ENSO-like (LF-EP), and LF-dominated mixing (LF-mixing) types. La Niña events with vague spatial patterns can also have the same categorization. The QB-CP and LF-EP El Niño types both have a high-amplitude QB component. Meanwhile, the former is less affected by its powerless LF component, but the latter is controlled by its strong LF component. Ocean dynamics of the two El Niño types are distinct from each other. The thermocline feedback dominates the growth of the two El Niño types and contributes to the phase transition of the LF-EP type, while the zonal advective feedback is of increasing importance in the QB-CP El Niño and mainly contributes to the phase transitions of the two El Niño types. Additionally, the LF-mixing type with ambiguous spatial features and complex life cycles is distinguished from the other two types. These results indicate that the two ENSO modes coexist in the tropical Pacific air–sea system, and their combination with changing amplitude is the key to explaining the spatiotemporal diversity of ENSO.

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Yuntao Wei and Hong-Li Ren

Abstract

This study investigates modulation of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) propagation during boreal winter. Results show that the spatiotemporal evolution of MJO manifests as a fast equatorially symmetric propagation from the Indian Ocean to the equatorial western Pacific (EWP) during El Niño, whereas the MJO during La Niña is very slow and tends to frequently “detour” via the southern Maritime Continent (MC). The westward group velocity of the MJO is also more significant during El Niño. Based on the dynamics-oriented diagnostics, it is found that, during El Niño, the much stronger leading suppressed convection over the EWP excites a significant front Walker cell, which further triggers a larger Kelvin wave easterly wind anomaly and premoistening and heating effects to the east. However, the equatorial Rossby wave to the west tends to decouple with the MJO convection. Both effects can result in fast MJO propagation. The opposite holds during La Niña. A column-integrated moisture budget analysis reveals that the sea surface temperature anomaly driving both the eastward and equatorward gradients of the low-frequency moisture anomaly during El Niño, as opposed to the westward and poleward gradients during La Niña, induces moist advection over the equatorial eastern MC–EWP region due to the intraseasonal wind anomaly and therefore enhances the zonal asymmetry of the moisture tendency, supporting fast propagation. The role of nonlinear advection by synoptic-scale Kelvin waves is also nonnegligible in distinguishing fast and slow MJO modes. This study emphasizes the crucial roles of dynamical wave feedback and moisture–convection feedback in modulating the MJO propagation by ENSO.

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Jinqing Zuo, Hong-Li Ren, and Weijing Li

Abstract

In the boreal winter, the Arctic Oscillation (AO) evidently acts to influence surface air temperature (SAT) anomalies in China. This study reveals a large intraseasonal variation in the relationship between the winter AO and southern China SAT anomalies. Specifically, a weak in-phase relationship occurs in December, but a significant out-of-phase relationship occurs in January and February. The authors show that the linkage between the AO and southern China SAT anomalies strongly depends on the AO-associated changes in the Middle East jet stream (MEJS) and that such an AO–MEJS relationship is characterized by a significant difference between early and middle-to-late winter. In middle-to-late winter, the Azores center of high pressure anomalies in the positive AO phase usually extends eastward and yields a significantly anomalous upper-level convergence over the Mediterranean Sea, which can excite a Rossby wave train spanning the Arabian Sea and intensify the MEJS. In early winter, however, the Azores center of the AO is apparently shifted westward and is mainly confined to the Atlantic Ocean; in this case, the associated change in the MEJS is relatively weak. Both observational diagnoses and experiments based on a linearized barotropic model suggest that the MEJS is closely linked to the AO only when the latter generates considerable upper-level convergence anomalies over the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, the different impacts of the AO on the MEJS and the southern China SAT anomalies between early and middle-to-late winter are primarily attributed to the large intraseasonal zonal migrations of the Azores center of the AO.

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Samantha Ferrett, Matthew Collins, and Hong-Li Ren

Abstract

The rate of damping of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTAs) associated with El Niño events by surface shortwave heat fluxes has significant biases in current coupled climate models [phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5)]. Of 33 CMIP5 models, 16 have shortwave feedbacks that are weakly negative in comparison to observations, or even positive, resulting in a tendency of amplification of SSTAs. Two biases in the cloud response to El Niño SSTAs are identified and linked to significant mean state biases in CMIP5 models. First, cool mean SST and reduced precipitation are linked to comparatively less cloud formation in the eastern equatorial Pacific during El Niño events, driven by a weakened atmospheric ascent response. Second, a spurious reduction of cloud driven by anomalous surface relative humidity during El Niño events is present in models with more stable eastern Pacific mean atmospheric conditions and more low cloud in the mean state. Both cloud response biases contribute to a weak negative shortwave feedback or a positive shortwave feedback that amplifies El Niño SSTAs. Differences between shortwave feedback in the coupled models and the corresponding atmosphere-only models (AMIP) are also linked to mean state differences, consistent with the biases found between different coupled models. Shortwave feedback bias can still persist in AMIP, as a result of persisting weak shortwave responses to anomalous cloud and weak cloud responses to atmospheric ascent. This indicates the importance of bias in the atmosphere component to coupled model feedback and mean state biases.

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Hong-Li Ren and Fei-Fei Jin

Abstract

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) tends to behave arguably as two different “types” or “flavors” in recent decades. One is the canonical cold-tongue-type ENSO with major sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTA) positioned over the eastern Pacific. The other is a warm-pool-type ENSO with SSTA centered in the central Pacific near the edge of the warm pool. In this study, the basic features and main feedback processes of these two types of ENSO are examined. It is shown that the interannual variability of upper-ocean heat content exhibits recharge–discharge processes throughout the life cycles of both the cold tongue (CT) and warm pool (WP) ENSO types. Through a heat budget analysis with focus on the interannual frequency band, the authors further demonstrate that the thermocline feedback plays a dominant role in contributing to the growth and phase transitions of both ENSO types, whereas the zonal advective feedback contributes mainly to their phase transitions. The westward shift of the SSTA center of the WP ENSO and the presence of significant surface easterly wind anomalies over the far eastern equatorial Pacific during its mature warm phase are the two main factors that lead to a reduced positive feedback for the eastern Pacific SSTA. Nevertheless, both the WP and CT ENSO can be understood to a large extent by the recharge oscillator mechanism.

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Samantha Ferrett, Matthew Collins, and Hong-Li Ren

Abstract

This study examines the extent of the Pacific double–intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) bias in an ensemble of CMIP5 coupled general circulation models and the relationship between this common bias and equatorial Pacific evaporative heat flux feedbacks involved in El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A feedback decomposition method, based on the latent heat flux bulk formula, is implemented to enable identification of underlying causes of feedback bias and diversity from dynamical and thermodynamical processes. The magnitude of mean precipitation south of the equator in the east Pacific (an indicator of the extent of the double-ITCZ bias in a model) is linked to the mean meridional surface wind speed and direction in the region and is consequently linked to diversity in the strength of the wind speed response during the ENSO cycle. The ENSO latent heat flux damping is weak in almost all models and shows a relatively large range in strength in the CMIP5 ensemble. While both humidity gradient and wind speed feedbacks are important drivers of the damping, the wind speed feedback is an underlying cause of the overall damping bias for many models and is ultimately more dominant in driving interensemble variation. Feedback biases can also persist in atmosphere-only (AMIP) runs, suggesting that the atmosphere model plays an important role in latent heat flux damping and double-ITCZ bias and variation. Improvements to coupled model simulation of both mean precipitation and ENSO may be accelerated by focusing on the atmosphere component.

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Yu Nie, Hong-Li Ren, and Yang Zhang

Abstract

Considerable progress has been made in understanding the internal eddy–mean flow feedback in the subseasonal variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) during winter. Using daily atmospheric and oceanic reanalysis data, this study highlights the role of extratropical air–sea interaction in the NAO variability during autumn when the daily sea surface temperature (SST) variability is more active and eddy–mean flow interactions are still relevant. Our analysis shows that a horseshoe-like SST tripolar pattern in the North Atlantic Ocean, marked by a cold anomaly in the Gulf Stream and two warm anomalies to the south of the Gulf Stream and off the western coast of northern Europe, can induce a quasi-barotropic NAO-like atmospheric response through eddy-mediated processes. An initial southwest–northeast tripolar geopotential anomaly in the North Atlantic forces this horseshoe-like SST anomaly tripole. Then the SST anomalies, through surface heat flux exchange, alter the spatial patterns of the lower-tropospheric temperature and thus baroclinicity anomalies, which are manifested as the midlatitude baroclinicity shifted poleward and reduced baroclinicity poleward of 70°N. In response to such changes of the lower-level baroclinicity, anomalous synoptic eddy generation, eddy kinetic energy, and eddy momentum forcing in the midlatitudes all shift poleward. Meanwhile, the 10–30-day low-frequency anticyclonic wave activities in the high latitudes decrease significantly. We illustrate that both the latitudinal displacement of midlatitude synoptic eddy activities and intensity variation of high-latitude low-frequency wave activities contribute to inducing the NAO-like anomalies.

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Hong-Li Ren, Fei-Fei Jin, and Li Gao

Abstract

A method of eddy structure decomposition is proposed to detect how low-frequency flow associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) organizes systematically synoptic eddy (SE) activity to generate in-phase and upstream feedbacks. In this method, a statistical eddy streamfunction (SES) field, defined by the three-point covariance of synoptic-scale streamfunction, is introduced to characterize spatiotemporal SE flow structures. The SES field is decomposed into basic and anomalous parts to represent the climatological SE flow structure and its departure. These two parts are used to calculate the basic and anomalous eddy velocity, eddy vorticity, and thus eddy vorticity flux fields, in order to elucidate those two SE feedbacks onto the NAO. This method is validated by the fact that the observed anomalous eddy vorticity flux field can be reproduced well by two linear terms: the basic eddy velocity field multiplied by anomalous eddy vorticity field and the anomalous eddy velocity field multiplied by basic eddy vorticity field. With this method, it is found that, in the positive and negative phases, the NAO flow tends to induce two different types of anomalous SE flow structure, which are largely responsible for generating the net meridional and zonal eddy vorticity fluxes that, in return, feed back onto the NAO. The two processes that are related to these two different types dominate in the in-phase and upstream feedbacks, which are delineated conceptually into two kinematic mechanisms associated with zonal-slanting and meridional-shifting changes in the SE structure. The present observational evidence supports the theory of eddy-induced instability for low-frequency variability and also provides insights into the reason for the asymmetry between the SE feedbacks onto the two NAO phases.

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Jinqing Zuo, Hong-Li Ren, Weijing Li, and Lei Wang

Abstract

Interdecadal variations in the relationship between the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and surface air temperature in China are investigated using observational and reanalysis data. Focus is on south-central China, in which temperature variability is strongly related to the NAO. It is revealed that the relationship shows clear interdecadal variations in midwinter during 1951–2015. A relatively weak in-phase relationship occurs before the early 1970s (P1), but a significant out-of-phase relationship dominates in the last two decades of the twentieth century (P2), though it is clearly weaker from the late 1990s onward. Observational evidence shows that such interdecadal variations are related mainly to variations in the spatial pattern and amplitude of the NAO. The northern center of the NAO shifted eastward over the second half of the twentieth century. In addition, the amplitude of the center strengthened from P1 to P2, resulting in a perturbation in the atmospheric circulation response pattern over Eurasian mid-to-high latitudes. During P2, the eastward shift and amplitude intensification of the NAO favored a north–south dipole structure in circulation anomalies over the Asian continent, which tended to produce cold temperature anomalies in south-central China during the positive NAO phase and warm anomalies during the negative phase. However, in the past two decades the northern center of the NAO has weakened and retreated westward. This was concurrent with a weakening relationship between the NAO and temperature anomalies in south-central China and northern Eurasia, indicating weaker downstream impacts of the NAO in midwinter.

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Hong-Li Ren, Fei-Fei Jin, and Jong-Seong Kug

Abstract

Synoptic eddy and low-frequency flow (SELF) feedback plays an important role in reinforcing low-frequency variability (LFV). Recent studies showed that an eddy-induced growth (EIG) or instability makes a fundamental contribution to the maintenance of LFV. To quantify the efficiency of the SELF feedback, this study examines the spatiotemporal features of the empirical diagnostics of EIG and its associations with LFV. The results show that, in terms of eddy vorticity forcing, the EIG rate of LFV is generally larger (smaller) in the upper (lower) troposphere, whereas, in terms of eddy potential vorticity forcing, it is larger in the lower troposphere to partly balance the damping effect of surface friction. The local EIG rate shows a horizontal spatial distribution that corresponds to storm-track activity, which tends to be responsible for maintaining LFV amplitudes and patterns as well as sustaining eddy-driven jets. In fact, the EIG rate has a well-defined seasonality, being generally larger in cold seasons and smaller in the warmest season, and this seasonality is stronger in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. This study also reveals a mid- to late winter (January–March) suppression of the EIG rate in the Northern Hemisphere, which indicates a reduced eddy feedback efficiency and may be largely attributed to the eddy kinetic energy suppression and the midlatitude zonal wind maximum in the midwinter of the Northern Hemisphere.

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